Friday, August 30, 2013

Making slow

This post belongs to the day I set out on my retreat. I hope you enjoy it.

This morning,
I, the haste-maker,
made slow;

took time 
to empty my bag,
scour out fluff,
pins and pills, 
tug out
the stiff black base,
caress it with a warmed cloth,
offer it to the sun
before packing anew.
Yet I took time 
not to pack 
the bag
but to place
things with care,
remembering to tuck in
pockets of space
And as I drove west,
before I knew it

 a poem arrived,
like new seed
on the wind.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A shell, a green leaf, and a mandala

 Trays of delicious food are brought to my room at meal-times, and I sit and eat in the quiet, gazing out to sea. This is such a treat, and a special part of this re-treat that I've given myself.
 I have the space to write a hand-written letter to my friend, and to sit and draw,
to wander by the sea and soak up the late winter sun,
 and to play in the sand once more. The piece I carve into the ironsand is called 'Journey back home to myself.'
 The journey takes me over dry leaves
 and into the greening centre.
My centre isn't yet greening. I'm still sleeping a lot. But I'm also taking in the freshness of the ocean with my daily walks. My body is being nourished by the lovingly prepared food,
and the perfect book was waiting for me on the bookshelf. Joan Anderson, ten years on from her 'Year by the Sea' when she took time out for solitary reflection, found herself losing the very treasure that she had found. Selling and publicising her book, which became a best-seller, and doing the same for the sequel, running workshops, travelling coast to coast, all took their toll. 'The Second Journey' is the story of how she took stock after her doctor, friends and family all expressed their concern at the consequences of her roller-coaster lifestyle.
What resonance! For me, the costs have not been so extreme; however I'm feeling the burden of trying to run a business selling my books (8 now, one out of print), running a psychotherapy practice, offering service through my spiritual community, and much more. With the seeds of a new creative project thrusting up, sprouting away and demanding attention, I realised that 'something's gotta give.'
Joan Anderson ended up travelling to the Scottish Isle of Iona. My journey has been less dramatic; just an hour's drive from the city. And here I'm finding the pathway back home to myself. I draw a mandala  to harness the yearning.
Finding the sacred centre. It's only here that the well can fill up once more.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Seeking simplicity

 I'm on retreat. Life became too complex and I became winter-weary. Then a virus hit me hard and I've been slow to recover.
It's been a rich time since publishing my new book Spirited Ageing, setting up a new website (click here to take a look), and receiving wonderful feedback from readers. I've been packaging up parcels to put in the mail, sending out review copies, doing interviews and preparing to be on TV.
 With the website book page up and running, I am now sending copies overseas, which is just what I dreamed would happen.
But this has left little time to sit and watch the clouds,
 or cast off my shoes and walk bare-foot on the sand,
or to be still in the presence of nature's magnificence.
 And so I've given myself a birthday treat: a re-treat.  Here I'm finding simplicity.
All I have to do is relax, sleep, walk by the sea, and eat the delicious meals that arrive on a tray at my door.
And create little altars on the wide sills, then sit and absorb the beauty. At first I just slept, and let myself empty out. A little bit of life is returning, but I'm still taking it easy. Sending this post to you is the big event of the day. Time to rest some more now. May you all find the retreat times that you need, when you need them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How to make a paper lantern

Start with an A4 pad of heavy paper or card (or choose a larger size if you like). Fold the long edge and notch it.
 Then cut out 'windows'. They can be any shape. Decorate around them with paints or coloured pencils.
 Little ones will of course want to join in and make their own.
 On the other side, glue tissue paper or cellophane over the 'windows'.
 This is how it will look on the outside.
 Then curl it around and staple into a cylinder shape. Cut a circle of card to fit the base and glue or tape it in place. It will sit on the folded, notched tab that you made at the start.
Finally, cut a strip of card to staple to the top to form a handle.
Now, here's the secret. With such a narrow lantern, it wouldn't be very safe to put a lighted candle inside. You can now buy little LED tea-light candles at a party or church supply shop. Just click the little switch underneath and your candle is lit. It will even flicker like a real one. They come in different colours. For the lanterns I used yellow as they looked closest to a real flame.
And here it is, your magic lantern, glowing in the dark. Have fun!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Brigid, Brigid, won't you come in?

 Gathering at First Light/Imbolc/Brigid/Candlemas on August 2 was extra special this year, because our group was able to take a whole weekend together. One member, who has been living in England for many years now, was back in New Zealand and able to join us.
We enjoy making food together,
 and joke that we always have far too much. But we are learning to simplify.
 First Light marks the half-way point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. In Celtic society, this was the festival of Imbolc, derived from the old word for ewe's milk, which began to flow again with the returning light and warmth.  It was also the festival of the Celtic fire goddess Brigid, goddess of inspiration, healing and poetry.
And so, as we lit our candles, we read and listened to some inspiring poetry.
This year I had secretly made a special gift for everyone: a Candlemas/Brigid lantern. In my next post I'll show you how to make one; but for now, watch what happens when the candles are lit inside:
 These were photographed before the handles were fixed on.
The spirit of Brigid is youthfulness and play, for it's the maiden aspect of the Goddess that comes to the fore at this time. In Britain people would open the door and call out, 'Brigid, Brigid, won't you come in?', inviting in light and fun after the long winter.
Women used to walk in candlelit processions as part of the festivities. And so here we were, seven grown women, each lighting her lantern and singing a simple song (taught to me by 5 year old Mira), walking in procession with our lanterns in the darkness of the night, giggling away and delighting in the simple magic.
I go with my Brigid lantern
My lantern is going with me
In heaven the stars are a-shining
On earth they are shining in me.
The light is returning, inklings of spring are appearing. The fragrance of magnolias and early spring flowering bulbs is wafting through the air.
 Happy Brigid to you all, and in the northern hemisphere, happy Lammas/Harvest.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The story of the paua shell brooch (Part Three)

In Part One I told you about losing my precious brooch. In Part Two I told you about how I discovered the depth of my mother's love, she who had gifted the brooch to me when I was 16. (This July marked 20 years since she died.)
I also told you how I accepted that the brooch was gone for good.

Early on a winter's morning six months later, the phone rang. It was the elderly man at number 2 Second Street.
"I've found your brooch!' he announced.
He was weeding the mondial grass beside the gate post, and his hand struck something hard. There was the lost brooch, none the worse for wear after all that time in the elements. 'Must be good silver,' he commented.

I raced up First Street, crossed the busy main road, and tripped down Second Street to knock on his door.
I cradled my precious brooch in my hands as he told me how thick the grass was (no wonder I didn't find it despite a search six months earlier), and how he then had to find my notice, which took a while.
On ascertaining that he was a reader, I gave him a copy of my last book, 'Dancing with the Seasons'.

You may think that the story is finished, but there's one more thing. I suddenly remembered what I had done only twenty four hours earlier. Now this may just be a coincidence, but when I think about it a little shiver runs up and down my spine.
You see, I'd been reading about Feng Shui, and discovered that the north eastern corner of my apartment was the success corner. In order to encourage success for my new book, I energised this corner. That was my conscious aim.
But look at the colours I chose: a blue cloth, a green candle-holder, a green plant, and above all, this glass heart that was a present from my dear old school friend.
Do the colours remind you of anything?
Was my unconscious invoking a different kind of success?
Never mind what the answer might be. I have my beloved brooch back. And I have my mother's love enfolding me every day.